Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can I Get That To Go?

Vacations don't just happen. Someone has to plan them (my husband) and pack for them (me). And, since I'm not the most decisive person, the 24 to 48 hours prior to a trip keep me pondering what each of my family members might need and what they should wear. I can't actually consult with the four of them on any of this because I'll get such wildly varied answers as Star Wars Legos, my horse, Christmas tights, Pringles, and, from my husband, "Just whatever." Really, honey, we can go to the beach for three days and you'd be fine with sweatshirts, rain boots, and snow skis?

So, I pack. And, in order to pack economically, I try to ask myself what's essential. Kind of like packing a "go bag". The kind it was highly recommended we keep on hand post 9/11. (Those people at FEMA are all about being prepared, ya know.) And anyway, once that train of thought left the station for me, I started wondering what I would pack in a real "go bag". The obvious approach is to say, "What could I not live without?"

1. My glasses. I'm not sure if this unknown and hypothetical emergency is an "on the run" scenario or a "fleeing disaster" one, but, either way, I'm supposed to take my contacts out at night and would love to be able to see where I'm going.

2. My cell phone. How our world made it so many eons without cell phones is a complete mystery to me. And I even lived in those very dark ages. If the emergency is so serious that I need a go bag, I don't know that calling 911 would be a viable option, but I'd still need to text my friends. Like. . .No tennis 2nite. Running from Attila & Huns. Or, to my Texas friends, East Coast destroyed. Can we come 2 ur house 4 dinner?

3. My iPod. I can't run from anything without music. And, don't worry, I already have a "go playlist".

4. A ponytail holder. The only thing more annoying than being forced from my home and running for my life is not having anything to put my hair up with.

5. Chapstick. I seriously question my will to live with chapped lips.

6. Running shoes. Should be self-explanatory.

7. Water. I'm not the kind of girl that could sniff out and identify a safe fresh water source during an emergency. I could sniff out a Sonic and they have many drink choices, but I'm not sure I should count on that.

8. Cash. I'll still use the Visa if I can because it has cash back rewards, but if the Huns are holding my husband hostage and I have to buy his release, I might need the cold hard stuff.

And, if there's room for just one more item (and isn't there always), it would be white-chocolate covered pretzels. Because if my time on Earth is limited, which a go bag would imply it may be, I'm done counting calories.

FEMA suggests a compass (I don't know how to use those things at all), and your passport (mine's expired, but I have considered investing in some fake ones, a la Jason Bourne), and duct tape. What's with the full-court press on duct tape, anyway? Is duct tape the official sponsor of the end times and all natural disasters until then? I'm almost 33 and have never needed duct tape, so I'm not wasting valuable go bag space on it. I'm pretty sure it would just get stuck in my hair.

Okay, back to our vacation. I packed for everyone, and, for the most part, efficiently. I did somehow get talked into eight sand shovels in six different sizes and fourteen different colors for only three kids, but my son wasn't sure what kind of construction jobs awaited him and his sisters at the beach, and it seemed like a valid point.

Next, it was time to load the van. My husband and I both like working that puzzle and love it when you fit something smoothly into an odd shape of available space. We'll even take along items we don't need just because they round out the stacking job we're doing. Like, "Oooh, we could slide the tent bag right in here!" Nevermind that we're staying at a hotel. Or, "Look, my high school yearbook fits perfectly in this gap!" You get the picture.

But, we're on our way as I compose this blog, to be posted later. My husband's driving, I'm writing, and the kids are watching a movie where vegetables are singing about the Wild West. You haven't lived until you've seen an armless gun-slinging tomato. Still, here's hoping that's not the highlight of my vacation. I'll let you know.

Monday, June 21, 2010

You Procreated This Mess!

I had a really busy week last week and it was a struggle just to keep my head above water, so that’s why I only posted one blog. The weekend itself was devoted to attempts, successful and failed, to honor my husband for Father’s Day. It’s only fair to make it a Father’s Weekend as Mother’s Weekend is the custom for me, and I’m thinking of stretching that to a full week next year. I figure by the time I’m forty, I can convince my family to consider the entire month of May a mother’s holiday extravaganza. But, back to this weekend and my husband’s turn to be pampered by our three miscreants.
It really all started in Target (doesn’t everything?), when we were picking out his Father’s Day cards. Originally, it was going to be a Father’s Day card, singular. But, to keep with traditions of conflict, the kids couldn’t agree on one. The ridiculousness of this is confounded by the fact that only one of my children can read, so clearly the disagreement was picture based. One of the girls had actually picked up a sympathy card as her first choice. Sadly, there are days of fatherhood for which her card would’ve been appropriate. I decided to guide them in the right direction with the cards and let each choose their own, since they wouldn’t be involved in the purchasing of the gift. Neither would I, and I’ll get to that part of the story later.
The first thing the girls do, when they are involved in any preparations for gift giving, is to inform the recipient of what they will be getting and what has been purchased thus far. This time it was only the cards and comments on a gift my husband was already aware he was receiving, but they are devoted to ruining any and all surprises for Christmases, birthdays, and special anniversary dinners. It’s genetic; a trait they inherited from my mother that skipped a generation in my case. And in both my daughters’ and mother’s case, it seems completely uncontrollable. They are confident they can keep a secret right up until they see the person from whom the secret is being kept, and then suddenly it’s as if someone has slipped them some truth serum and they’re being tortured for information by Russian operatives. Suffice it to say, these are not the ladies we should trust with the nuclear weapon launch codes for our country.
On to the gift segment of our story. . . My husband really enjoys basketball, so I thought it would be nice if we could get a basketball hoop to put up in our driveway. The idea stage was as far as I could take it though, because what do I know about picking out a basketball hoop? Or purchasing it? Or loading it in the van? Or assembling it? The logistics were above my pay-grade. So, basically, I said, “We want to get you a basketball hoop for Father’s Day. Can you go get one and put it together?” He obliged our request and went on to pay for, pick up, and assemble his own Father’s Day gift. I don’t think this can be considered the royal treatment in our society. Especially because the assembly took about a fortnight and involved a few minor injuries.
“We” made him a big breakfast on Sunday, and were accomplices in his unhealthy cinnamon roll choice on Saturday morning. And even though he didn’t need a break from the cooking he never does, we decided to go out to dinner on Saturday night. We went with our neighbors to Texas Roadhouse, where we were seated in the “family section”, a.k.a. the corner they stick everyone that has very small children and babies in. That was a good move on their part, since during the course of our meal I saw our combined six children do everything you can imagine; including, but certainly not limited to, screaming at the top of their lungs for food, dancing, arm wrestling, laying down to rest, full-throttle cackling, and knife-wielding. My husband got the “honor” of sitting between the twins and serving as food-cutter and drink-controller. And, as I’m income-challenged, he even got to pay for our raucous steak dinner.
And, of course, like all American holidays, this one called for the consumption of surplus calories. In honor of fathers, I ate two and half preliminary rolls with cinnamon butter before attacking and conquering my entrĂ©e. The food offerings went on all weekend and I rationalized things like ice cream and fresh from the oven peanut butter cookies in the same day. Because my husband’s a good father.
Yesterday, at least, he got to enjoy his hard-earned basketball hoop. We had another family over to help us break it in. We let the children have the first turn, and their ranks diminished quickly through face/head injuries, distraction, and the heat pushing them back into the air conditioning. After all of the kids were tucked away with sugar and a movie, we played a couple of games of two-on-two. This was an experiment in extreme street ball because it was the middle of the afternoon and 400 degrees outside. I think the actual thermometer reading was 95, but the heat index was 127ish. That portion of the weekend was made possible by the scientists at Gatorade.
But, on a serious note (not that possible heat stroke isn’t serious), I know that yesterday was about honoring the strongest of men – Fathers. Guys that know no amount of personal toughness can prepare for them for battlefield of fatherhood. A service that calls on you to be strong when everyone else around you is crying, to provide, to protect, to give affection and correction, always digging deep in yourself for unending patience and unlimited forgiveness while balancing the weight of your family’s world on your shoulders. And that’s tough.
And I’m so thankful I married a man that is fully committed to making our children be the best people they can be. I’m thankful he’s more patient with them than I am, so that they know there are other options besides sheer frustration. I’m thankful he’s capable to handle all three on his own (some men aren’t) while I pursue my dreams and hobbies from time to time. And I’m thankful he put together his own Father’s Day present, because outside of a cake or a lasagna, I’m completely assembly-handicapped.
We’re heading to the beach for vacation, and I’ll be keeping you posted!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Woman Versus Wild

More than once during my weekend getaway I heard “Don’t put this in your blog.” So, as I embark on recounting my adventure know that this is a partial retelling and the full one requires security clearance. Luckily, the last forty-eight hours provided a wealth of storytelling material to choose from.
Why don’t we pick it up with my nighttime arrival back in the state of Virginia. A state that misleadingly claims to be “for lovers” when indeed it is “for driving obstacle courses”. I made it to level three in this game on Friday night when I successfully navigated narrow, winding, two-lane roads in the pitch dark without hitting a single animal the encroaching woods threw at me. Animals like deer, raccoons, opossums, and possibly a warthog (I didn’t get a good look at that one.) The next morning, as I left from my first night’s destination to go to my friend’s mountain home, I noticed that other motorists didn’t fare as well. And judging from the carcass strewn highway, the animals fared even worse. I’m not sure what type of training is required for taxidermists, but I do know where they can pick up some practice animals if they need them.
We’ll come back to how I made it to level four in the rural driving obstacle course game later, because I actually have another animal related story to share at this juncture. And let me start by assuring you that I’m not making this up. My half-sister and her mom, who I spent the night with on Friday, found themselves pet-sitting for two different sets of neighbors who had gone away on beach vacations. That’s what neighbors are for, right? And checking in on and feeding someone’s dog or cat or even gecko is no big deal. But I think at the point the owner starts telling you where to bury the dog if it dies while they’re away, you have to draw the line on the pet-sitting. I’m pretty sure that when the conversation took this turn, my half-sister and her mom were at a loss for words and just followed the woman out to the sacred burial tree out of confused curiosity. My step-mom did say, “But you’re not expecting the dog to die, right?” The owner assured them that, “No, no. Not really. But let me just show you the blanket you should wrap him in if he does.” Seriously? I think we can all agree that shrouding and grave-digging would warrant a few surcharges to the pet care bill. I, for one, would not bury any friend or neighbor’s pet for less than two hundred dollars. I guess I might do a goldfish for like twenty bucks.
Back to the driving experiment: I had to find my way to my friend’s mountain log cabin using only my trip gauge and random markers like green mailboxes, tiny concrete bridges, and abandoned settlements, circa 1700s. And level four came when I had to mount what they graciously term the “driveway”, a gravel speckled path that went at a 90 degree angle toward the sky. This was no easy feat in my Mazda 6. The precarious climb was worth it, though, as they have built for themselves a paradise on a mountain top. It was breathtaking. And while I don’t know that I could ever sacrifice the conveniences of city-dwelling, I must admit the beauty their lifestyle offers is tempting.
But I think the main reason I couldn’t live that way is my complete reliance on civilization. I don’t know how to live off the land, fend for myself, etc. My friend, P, on the other hand, along with her husband, Tarzan of the jungle, ooze competence and independence. They literally built their own home whereas I can barely hang a picture frame in mine. They grow their own vegetables, which isn’t so uncommon, but I personally harvest my crops at the grocery store. And remarkably, despite being brought up in the same county as the two of them, I wouldn’t even know where to begin with the whole planting a garden thing. Even when forced to work in my family’s garden as a child, I paid little attention to what I was doing. My mind was always elsewhere, plotting out my future stardom no doubt.
At some point, when we were discussing hunting (their forte being wildlife, mine being discounted shoes), I learned they could survive in even the worst of times, as they are willing to eat not only deer (venison) and the even more obvious turkeys, but also have killed and eaten wild chickens, rabbits, and squirrels! Okay, number one, I know that even the most lackadaisical animal lover is outraged over the rabbit thing and needless to say vegetarians probably started weeping during the first sentence. But in my friends’ defense, they hunt for food, not sport, and one can certainly understand how it might be beneficial to cut down on the bunny population, as there is a common saying of things multiplying like rabbits. And number two, yes, I said squirrels. I was as surprised as you. But, apparently, they taste like chicken if you cook them right. You know what else tastes like chicken if you cook it right? Chicken. And I’m more of a Tyson boneless, skinless, prepackaged girl.
The highlight of my weekend was hiking/mountain climbing/rock climbing up to a beautiful waterfall. And I felt such a sense of accomplishment for making it up there unscathed, even surmounting an enormous boulder at the top that once we climbed over brought us to the other side where the waterfall emptied into a sparkling pool of water before it meandered gradually down the mountain. My lifelong friend and I rested there, enjoying the majestic view and recounting many highlights of the past 32 years of our lives, which turned out to save me some time later as I tried to scale my way back down the boulder on the edge of a cliff and didn’t have to fool around with the whole life flashing before my eyes thing since we’d just gone over that. I just had to choke on my fear and go for it, knowing there was some delicious chicken salad back at the house for us to enjoy at lunch. At least I think it was chicken.